Dr John Middleton, vice president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, told GP that a lack of ring-fencing could allow local authorities to spend health budgets on services such as housing or schools.
He urged GP commissioners on health and wellbeing boards to challenge any local authority decision to limit or revoke healthcare spending.
Although DoH plans to shift public health from NHS to local authority control have been broadly welcomed, concerns remain over funding arrangements and accountability.
Assurances must be made to ensure money for public health is spent in that area, Dr Middleton said. ‘The public health lobby says we need absolute clarity on ring-fencing.
‘Local authorities are different bodies; they’ve not had responsibility for public health for a while – 40 years. And there are all sorts of pressures on local authorities.’
He warned: ‘If rules are not tight and clear, it is possible for money to be siphoned off. Public Health England needs to take a strong role, as does the DoH.’
Dr Middleton said GP commissioners ‘will exercise a strong partnership role’ when sitting on health and wellbeing boards. It is vital they challenge decisions by local authorities if they try to limit or restrict budgets, he said.
His comments come after the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) warned that unregulated competition among providers may lower the quality of public health services.
Responding to last month’s NHS listening exercise, BASHH said that increased competition and the lack of a national tariff for public health could lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ to provide services at the lowest cost.
This would ultimately result in worse sexual health outcomes, the association said.